Trigger Warning: Some of the content in this article may be disturbing to some readers. Please read at your own discretion or check out one of our other articles.
For the past couple days, I’ve been glued to South African news and social media. I watched as my fellow countrywomen rose up on a national scale and marched to parliament in Cape Town to protest gender-based violence. I felt helpless sitting in the relative safety of my apartment in a quaint campus town in North Carolina. I wanted nothing more than to shout and fight for change alongside these women and to make sure I never have to see my mom or old high school friends, who still call South Africa home, on the news. So, as I watch events unfold from an entire continent away, I decided to join the fight the only way I know how, by writing about it.
Early this week, the University of Cape Town (and the nation of South Africa) was shocked to learn about the tragic death of first-year student Uyinene Mrwetyana. A man was taken into custody in connection with her initial disappearance in August, and he confessed to her rape and murder, while at Wynberg Magistrate’s Court on Monday. Uyinene is one of many women that we continue to mourn today, but the brutal details of her death sparked incredible outrage across the country. The unchecked violence that stole Uyinene’s life and continues to affect women, children and the LGBTQ+ community have left people in South Africa asking: am I next?
The Am I Next movement garnered national support as thousands took to social media and the streets of Cape Town to express their anger. In photos of the protests, women brandish signs with the names of murdered women such as Uyinene, as well as angry slogans of “stop killing us,” “women are not sexual objects” and “my body is not your crime scene.” Protestors planned to take a stand at the World Economic Forum in Cape Town and demanded that President Cyril Ramaphosa acknowledge gender violence for the crisis that it is. The president has since made several statements on Twitter but has received backlash for the government’s failure to deal with proliferating violence over the years.
The movement has started to receive global attention on social media under hashtags such as #SAShutDown, #AmINext and #NotInMyName. In a video directed by Kelly Pearce on Instagram, women state that “time is up” in a powerful message about gender violence. “We’ve seen so many tragedies in the media lately. Imagine how many stories haven’t even made it to the media and haven’t even been told yet,” one woman says in the video, and this heartbreaking truth pushed me to sit down and write in solidarity for the women who are, quite literally, fighting for their lives.
While this article was hard to write and will probably be hard to read, gender violence is an issue that demands our acknowledgement and our action. The Am I Next movement may have been sparked by anger, grief and fear, but I am endlessly inspired by the courage of the women and children who are demanding accountability and change on the streets of Cape Town and who are making their voices heard across the country.
Enough is enough.